Coast Guard Highlights Paddlesport Safety Measures for New Boaters
Over the past month, the U.S. Coast Guard has experienced a high number of paddlecraft related accidents on the Great Lakes and the number of inexperienced paddlecraft users has increased significantly due to the recent rise in paddlesport interest.
New boaters are entering the paddlesport boating community with little to no education regarding safety while engaging in these activities.
With eight weekends remaining in the summer season, Coast Guard units are raising awareness of the dangers associated with paddlesports and are seeking to reduce the number of paddlecraft related injuries.
There are many steps you can take to ensure you are properly prepared to safely embark on your paddlecraft.
WEAR A LIFE JACKET
Due to the nature of paddlecrafts they are more prone to capsizing and you should be prepared to enter the water at any time. Getting back into a kayak or canoe from the water can be exhausting or even impossible due to injuries. By wearing a Coast Guard approved life jacket, getting back into your paddlecraft will be easier due to the inherent buoyancy of the vest.
Have a reliable means of communication such as a sound producing device, waterproof cell phone, or marine radio. Having these forms of communication will greatly increase your chances of being located in the event of an emergency. Day and night visible flares, a signal mirror and a whistle or air horn can also aid emergency responders in their search efforts. Boaters are also encouraged to purchase, register and carry a personal locator beacon (PLB), which will instantly notify responders of your location when activated during a distress situation.
By taking a paddlesport education course before heading out, you can learn valuable paddle safety skills that could potentially save your life in an emergency. The Coast Guard Auxiliary offers the “Paddlesports America Course,” a four-hour classroom based introduction to paddling safety, techniques, and safety strategies. Other hands-on courses are offered through the U.S. Power Squadrons, state departments of natural resources, local commercial outfitters, and the American Canoe Association.
FILE A FLOAT PLAN
Filing a float plan can be as simple as writing down a plan for your voyage and leaving it with a friend or family member not traveling with you. Valuable float plan information would include where you’re going on the water, where you’re leaving from and returning to, and how long you plan to be out. An electronic float plan can easily be filed using the Coast Guard mobile app available in the Apple app store and Google play.
Lastly, include a waterproof sticker or label on your paddlecraft that includes name, phone number, address and an emergency contact as this information can be valuable to those responding to an emergency.
If you find yourself witness to a paddlecraft related accident, you can help as well. Notify emergency responders of the nature of distress, number of persons or vessels involved, provide a GPS location or detailed description of your location, and remain on scene to relay pertinent information or updates as they occur.